It's important to know that fat is good for you and how avoiding it can actually hurt your health. Listen in for types you should focus on!
My guest today is breaking it down for us and giving the true story when it comes to the what, why and how of fats!
Rhyan Geiger is a registered dietitian and vegan author who specializes in vegan nutrition. She is the owner of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian where she helps others easily transition to vegan living. She has many years of experience in vegan nutrition and believes in positively impacting the world one bite at a time.
Rhyan is an expert in this field and has been featured in Women's Health and Business Insider. You can connect with her on her website (where you can join her newsletter to get a free vegan smoothie book!) or on Instagram.
You can also get 10% off her book, A Complete Guide to Grocery Shopping Vegan, with code REALFOOD!
Types of Fats
Fats are one of the macronutrients (protein, carb, fat) and are really important for your body. There are different types of fats:
- Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are considered healthy fats or heart healthy and are predominately found in foods that come from plants.
- Trans fat and saturated fats can wreak havoc in your body and are predominately found in foods that come from animals and in fried foods.
Why We Need Healthy Fats
Because trans and saturated fats can raise your triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, which can lead to heart disease, you want to avoid them for the most part. However a little in an otherwise healthy individual isn't the end of the world. But unsaturated fats are needed in order for our bodies to function properly.
Fats do a variety of things. They help build cell membranes and build the surroundings of our nerves, which keep our body moving and functioning.
Also vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble and they need fat in order to be absorbed. Without these vitamins you can experience a variety of health issues.
Omega 3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fats. They are really important for brain function like building brain cells. These types of fat typically come from fish, but fish often get them from algae so there are ways to get Omega 3 fats from plants. Algae being one of them, however you can also get them from plant foods like flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
Unsaturated keep you heart healthy overall and can help prevent heart disease.
But fat also keeps you feeling full, because it takes you longer to digest. This helps regulate your blood sugar, which in turn can help prevention of type 2 diabetes.
How Much Fat You Need
The dietary reference Intake (DRI) is 20-35% of the total calories you are eating. So this will vary with everyone.
Because many of us do not calculate or track our food, another way to visually think about it is through your plate. The MyPlate Guidelines say that half of your plate should be comprised of fruit and/or veggies, one quarter grains and one quarter protein. With fat, you can think about the area in the middle being filled with about two tablespoons of healthy fat.
This is simply a guideline and will vary with each meal.
Food With Healthy Fats
Here are some foods you can include in your diet so you can get in those healthy fats:
- Nuts like walnuts, macadamia and almonds
- Seeds like chia, hemp and flax
- Nut butters
- Dark chocolate
Here are some ideas on how to use these foods for meals:
- Adding flax, hemp and chia with fruit into a smoothie
- Making a chickpea scramble and adding flax, hemp and chia in with veggies
- Putting walnuts in oatmeal
- Eating avocado in a sandwich, wrap or taco
- Eating apples or toast with nut butter
- Making dairy free sauces with cashews
Also, if you keep these foods eye level in the fridge and pantry you are more likely to grab for them when making meals.
Signs You May Need More Fats
Fats are so important for our body to function appropriately. Here are a few signs that may mean you need more healthy fat in your diet:
- Skin dryer than normal
- Feeling sluggish or tired
- You see changes in mood
- You are generally not feeling yourself
- Vitamin deficiency
- Hair loss
- Frequent colds
- Dry eyes
- Hormonal problems
- Feeling hungry a lot
If you are experiencing any of these signs it is really important you go see your doctor.